Yesterday I experienced my first earthquake.
I’d been walking in the mountains with a friend, and as we turned for home a sudden shock went through us both. We were on a narrow path on the face of a mountain, and it felt as though a giant fist had slammed into the rocks immediately below us.
Being the monsoon, when torrents of water chew away at the cliffs and bring them down, my first thought was that the mountainside had fallen away beneath us. I looked down, saw nothing, then turned to look at the rocks above us.
We were exposed – there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nothing we could do. My only clear thought was, Whatever happens next is beyond our control. My heart was hammering, but my mind was perfectly at peace.
There was a second shock, identical to the first and then – nothing. It was strangely silent – there were no sounds of falling rocks, no breaking trees, no screams from the valley below.
It was almost as if we’d both imagined the entire episode, until we saw the freshly fallen rocks lying broken on the trail, and the seething masses of worms crawling out of the earth.
It’s strange that it takes an earthquake to bring me such peace.
For the past ten days, I’ve been in a Tibetan Buddhist area of northern India. It’s a quiet place amongst the clouds, with monkeys chattering and birds of prey wheeling over vast green valleys. It rains Biblically on an almost-daily basis.
The other foreigners I meet here are all on holidays. Most of them have come to study yoga or meditation, and many have adopted the Buddhist mindset of non-attachment and acceptance.
For them – at least, so long as their holidays last – the world is an illusion, and the only thing they hope to change is themselves.
There are times I’d like to be one of them, to spend long, lazy afternoons in cafes and think about nothing, but there are certain things in this world I can’t accept.
I will make a difference, so long as I’m able, and now accept that I will not be free until our girls are.
(This morning I learned that the magnitude-5 quake was felt hundreds of kilometres away, and we had been standing just a few kilometres from its epicentre. No serious damage has been reported).
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